State Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, visited the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to encourage local residents and business leaders to join the cause in convincing the state to develop a true State Road 256 connector to I-65.

Goodin, who represents Scott and Jefferson counties as part of District 66, has worked on the S.R. 256 project for several years. He is on the state budget committee and the Ways and Means committee, boards that work closely with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

On Thursday, he said, so far, improvements to S.R. 256 have been confined to Scott County, adding that the inclusion of Madison continues to hang in the balance.

Drivers heading westbound on S.R. 256 are currently greeted by barricades near the Austin city limits, as INDOT is working on a $1.3 million pavement replacement project that has blocked thru-traffic to the interstate.

INDOT is rebuilding S.R. 256 from Church Street eastward for .45 miles. The project includes water lines, a storm sewer trunk line, a new culvert at Austin Ditch, 6-foot sidewalks with ADA-compliant ramps and transitions at street and driveway approaches.

Contract completion date is Aug. 29.

The second phase of the project will include improvements from Austin city limits to the intersection of State roads 256 and 203.

However, the funding and road work ends there.

"So, the next phase that only makes sense then is from the (State Road) 203, Hardy Lake area into the city of Madison," Goodin said.

While no funding is in place to finish the connector, Goodin said the possible expansion would be a modified two-lane highway. The road would include turning blisters, and crews would flatten out the hills to make the roadway safer.

The idea is in place, but the big question is if or when it will become a reality.

Goodin said he mentions the project frequently to Gov. Mike Pence. But he wants a partner in helping push the project through: The public and local businesses who believe they can benefit from the expansion.

He asked the chamber members who support the connection to write a letter to the governor's office, respectfully encouraging the state to move forward.

"I don't think there's been a real effort on the city of Madison's part or on Jefferson County's part and the town of Hanover's part to really get the attention of folks in Indianapolis about the rest of 256, and I think we really need to do that," Goodin said. "Because I don't think the folks in Indianapolis think that Jefferson County is serious about completing this road."

The project was close to being scheduled several years ago but fell through, Goodin said, adding that he has no way of telling how far it has dropped on INDOT's priority list.

In evaluating the roadways, in addition to conditions, Goodin said the state first looks at traffic numbers. Those numbers can justify an overhaul project such as the proposed S.R. 256 or drop it from the running, he said.

He encouraged businesses who have maps or directions to Madison, to have visitors use S.R. 256 as the main entry point.

"We have to start using 256 as the corridor to Madison," he said. "We can't direct (visitors or business) another place."

Nathan Hadley, executive director for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp., said the lack of a better highway is one of the top reasons given by businesses who pass on relocating to Jefferson County.  

Goodin will visit Madison again Monday to hold a public meeting at Venture Out Business Center. The meeting is at 5:30 p.m.